The Gross sisters are identical by genetics, but different in almost every other regard
Even though Gillian (left) and Courtney (right) Gross are twins genetically and both play soccer in the MAC, this is where their similarities end. Courtney, who plays for UB, and Gillian, who attends rival Akron, are as different as can be. Courtesy of the Gross Family
One spends her time stalking bands and one spends her time cooking. One scores goals and one defends them. One is a Buffalo Bulls and one is an Akron Zip.
Courtney and Gillian Gross are identical twins from East Meadow, N.Y. They are junior soccer players in the Mid-American Conference. Courtney is a starting forward for Buffalo, while Gillian patrols the backfield of the Akron defense. To the naked eye, it's hard to tell the Gross sisters apart. But talk to them for five minutes and the differences jump out.
You will never confuse one for the other again.
The sisters, who grew up on Long Island, haven't been able to escape the "Gross twins" title. From the days of playing for the Albertson Fury, a youth soccer travel team, to playing for East Meadow High School, that title is how they were known. As youngsters, they would dress in the same outfits but wear different colors. They even had their own lingo with each other.
Twin shenanigans were rampant in the Gross household. Courtney and Gillian shared a room and one night, they switched beds before their mother, Donna, came in to say goodnight. She did not realize they had switched.
"We tried to play tricks on our parents; it worked maybe once or twice," Courtney said. "We used to switch pajamas and beds. We used to trade cleats. My parents always wanted me and my sister to switch jerseys. To this day, my dad [Allan Gross] wants us to switch teams, switch jerseys, switch positions and see if anyone would notice. Quite honestly, I don't think anyone would."
Personality-wise, the twins are different as night and day. Courtney is quiet and laid back, whereas Gillian has a more intense persona. She's outgoing and independent. Courtney spends most of her off time patrolling the Internet and stalking bands. The current victim of her Internet prowling is The Summer Set, an American pop-rock band from Arizona.
"I kind of stalk bands," Courtney said. "When I fall in love with a band, I stalk them. If I could, I would travel around with them. I just know where they always are and where their concerts are."
Gillian likes to spend her time baking, something Courtney isn't very interested in at all.
"I love to bake and cook and my family always makes fun of her because she hates doing that stuff," Gillian said. "She'd rather make Kraft macaroni and cheese than sit down and cook a meal."
Like any siblings, they've had their share of arguments and fights. Gillian is a minute older than Courtney. The two have one older sister, Marissa.
"I do think I have the middle-child syndrome having both an older sister and a younger, like I get treated like the middle child," Gillian said. "Everything gets blamed on me, no matter what it is. Princess Courtney and Princess Marissa don't get the blame for anything."
Donna recalls the day Courtney and Gillian were having an argument and it got pretty heated. It resulted in one sister calling the other "ugly." Donna couldn't hold in her laughter.
"If you're calling your sister ugly, you are calling yourself ugly," she said.
Their competion comes out most when they play soccer. It is in the blood of the Gross family. Marissa played Division I soccer at Towson. The sisters spent hours on the soccer field watching Marissa tear up the competition, and they trained to be able to compete with her.
"When we are all home together, we train and run together," Marissa said. "We usually make it a fun competition to see who gets to run to certain spots first, who can do the most sit ups, who can sprint the fastest. I think that definitely brings the competitive edge out of them. They work hard during the season and the offseason, which I see during breaks, to get them where they are now."
Marissa now considers the twins to be her inspiration.
"They now inspire me, that when I play for fun, I play with that competitive edge every time just like they do," Marissa said. "They have told me in the past that I've inspired them to be the players they are now, [and now it's the opposite]."
Courtney and Gillian had dreams of becoming Division I soccer players like Marissa. The only question was: where would they play?
Courtney had always dreamed of playing and going to school with Gillian.
"I had always imagined that I would be going with my sister and we'd be going to school together and it would be fun, but I think she didn't want to be with me at all," Courtney said with a laugh. "She's like: 'I want to be my own person.' She fell in love with [Akron]."
Gillian saw college as an opportunity to not be a "Gross twin" for four years.
"For me, it was more of an opportunity to be an individual for once," Gillian said. "We've always grown up as the Gross twins; no one thought of Gill and Courtney separately, so I thought it was my opportunity to break away."
Gillian chose Akron before Courtney picked a school. Akron and Buffalo were the only schools that did not recruit both sisters. Courtney fell in love with Buffalo during her visit.
"I just loved the campus and when I came to visit, the girls were great and it did help that my sister made her decision first," Courtney said. "I thought it would be pretty cool to play in the same conference."
The two will play each other Thursday when Buffalo hosts Akron in the final game of the season. Proud parents Donna and Allan will be looking on, cherishing the opportunity to see their daughters compete against one another at UB Stadium.
Courtney and Gillian are excited to be playing each other. Although this is their junior year, it is the first real opportunity that they've had to go head to head as they are both major contributors on their respective teams.
"Playing against her is a lot more fun," Courtney said. "We've always been competitive. Now that it means something, we can truly battle it out. We are always rooting for each other, but we are still always competitive."
The Akron players have dubbed the game "The Gross Bowl". The twins have very different ideas as to how it will play out.
"There might be extra shirt tugging," Courtney said. "But yeah, I'm going to get by her."
"I'm going to take her down and then laugh because it will be kind of funny, but yeah, I'll beat her," Gillian said, echoing her sister's diction.
Gillian is looking for revenge after last year's 1-0 Buffalo victory. After that match, according to Allan, Courtney ran over and slyly said to Gillian, "I've got bragging rights for a year."
On Thursday, you will find the two proud parents sitting at the 50-yard line, wearing both Akron and Buffalo attire, rooting for a quality soccer game. Although the game means much more for UB, as this game determines whether the Bulls will play in the MAC tournament, it will be hard for the parents to pick a side.
"I feel like the Manning family watching Eli and Peyton play against each other," Allan said.
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